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Kitchen designer, general contractor, or both?

Posted by dr.liz (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 28, 13 at 0:21

I'm a little confused about who to hire for my job. I'm not changing layout much, but will need some electric work, possibly minor plumbing or moving of ductwork. Some of the kitchen cabinet retailers do not install, some do, some GCs insist you buy their cabinets (which I don't like--I'd rather choose my own and hire someone to install.) One of the designers will only use their own (custom) cabinets--otherwise they charge $500 nonrefundable for the drawings.

Even though it's not a complicated job it will take more than simply hanging the cabinets, since a little electric/plumbing may be needed, Also, there's removal of old floor, install of new, counters, tile, paint. I know I don't have the time/expertise to be my own GC. So who do I go to? Designer? GC? Both? I'm trying to keep to $30K budget, but the first contractor I spoke to quoted high $30s, and I don't think that even includes materials such as flooring or tile.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Kitchen designer, general contractor, or both?

It depends on how much thought you want to put into things. If you are willing to put in a lot of hard work and time I don't think a kitchen designer is necessary for you.

Post your layout here and you will get many comments and help developing a layout. Then all you need to figure out are the aesthetics of the look. I'm sure you have a general idea of how you would like the kitchen to look so you can figure out cabinet color, counters etc. If not you can ask for advice here.

What you really need help with is the labor. Since you dont have the time to be a GC, you need to hire one. Keep looking around for a GC. Tell them that you would like to supply all the items that will go int he kitchen (cabinets, counters, flooring, fixtures) and ask for a price just to do all the labor.

For our kitchen I got help with the layout here and then my wife and I refined it on our own. We brought the layout to our amish cabinet maker who made the cabinets we wanted and he did the installation. We bought our own appliances, pendants, ucls, hood, floor tile, backsplash tile. We went out on our own to find a granite fabricator. The only thing the GC is doing is bringing in his plumber and electrician, supplying all the behind the scenes stuff, and installing everything.

I feel like this is a good way to save a lot of money over a one stop kitchen shop that supplies everything for you. It takes a little more effort, but its not nearly as difficult as DIY.

What part of the country are you located in? We started off with a 30k budget, but in our area (DC), that doesn't get you anything unless you DIY.


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RE: Kitchen designer, general contractor, or both?

Thanks, dcjersey. I believe we're neighbors. I am in Colts Neck New Jersey, In Monmouth County. I take it you were very happy with the Amish cabinetmaker you used? For my part, I do not think I am changing my layout except perhaps for an inch or two here or there. As you say, what I mostly need is labor. That said, I need someone who will do more then simply hang the cabinets. I do need some of that "behind the scenes" stuff as well.


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RE: Kitchen designer, general contractor, or both?

I don't live in NJ anymore, but when I did I wasn't too far from Colts Neck. Now I am in the DC area.

My kitchen isn't done but the cabinets are in and I am very pleased. We used Oxford Cabinets and let them handle the install. They were able to install 95% of the cabinets in one day, but there was a mixup regarding the fridge cabinet so they came back a few days later and installed that. You should give them a call as they might be willing to travel out to you. The value for the money was amazing and it was a lot less expensive to have them install the cabinets than have my contractor do it.

I recommend making a list of exactly what you want the contractor to do. Break it down by task and list exactly what materials you will supply yourself. Give this list to each contractor you meet with an ask for a bid based on that task list. Get an Angie's List membership to find contractors or look in local magazines (in the DC area we have Washingtonian Magazine) to see if they do a best contractors article.


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RE: Kitchen designer, general contractor, or both?

In general...

A general contractor can handle the whole project in a general way. Some are fantastic, some are good, some are just OK. They can certainly do a great job with the guts of the job, the rough in for electrical, plumbing etc. and many can finish on a high note and give you a great value.

A kitchen designer will be leaning more towards the finished end of the project. I am certain that there are some out there that can handle the whole job, but in general, they will be dealing with the design and finishes and not so much as what is under the skin.

IMO, the structure of the project is as vital as the finishes. In 30 years, not once have I ever heard of a plumber or electrician say "oh I do quite a bit of work for this interior designer..."

There has been more of a trend lately that the client (you) wants to deal with subs directly. I have to say that I implore you to resist this. It makes such a huge mess when it comes to scheduling and subs working together on the same project while a GC has next to nothing for control of his project.

An example would be the client hires a separate cabinet maker, who only answers to you. The GC, trying to get answers on toe kick space heating, gets the cold shoulder from the cabinet maker because they have nothing to do with each other. The GC is sitting there tying to answer questions from his HVAC guy as to layout, location, height, depth, etc. and without that information the GC is sitting there with his pants down.

Most GC's I work with NEED to resist this as much as the client is insisting. And most GC's will do everything they can to accommodate the situation. As long as everyone is on the same page and working together, and the client understands that the GC is in no way responsible for anything the sub does, or warranty, then there shouldn't theoretically be any issues at all. But that is seldom.

I am working with a GC right now that an interior designer is in the equation with the clients. There is some definite elevated stress.

My suggestion is have the kitchen designer design and the GC run the project, fully in charge.


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RE: Kitchen designer, general contractor, or both?

Oh, and don't forget the liability you will be placing on yourself by hiring your own person to work with other people working on the job. Make certain that they are insured and licensed (per state laws). Because if the person you are working with hurts, kills, or destroys something and they have nothing, your property will be subject to restitution. So make sure you talk with your insurance agent and make sure you are covered.


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RE: Kitchen designer, general contractor, or both?

Oh...boy!. First time here and can I ever tell you about kitchen designers and contractors! I just finished my kitchen. Initially, the KD company had a contractor who works for them if a client needs it but apparently this guy didn't want my little 30K job because it was "too small". I had to hire my own contractors for electrical, demo of the old kitchen, and plumbing. (I later found out that these contractors, whom I know from another job, also install kitchens but at the time, I didn't bother to ask....)

Anyhow, the KD mis-measured and a switch was half hidden behind a cabinet. He arrives to check it out while my contractors are here. They discuss it and it is agreed that the switch rather than the cabinet will have to be moved. Since my contractors are on the premises they may as well move it...ah yah, right!

It cost me an extra $300 to move the switch because it wasn't easy as it was attached to a support beam. I paid the contractors and then deducted this amount as a back charge from the final payment owed to the KD company. Then, the KD threatens to take me to small claims court because he says why should his firm pay when they could have chosen their own contractor! Say what? Their contractor didn't want my measly job. This was their mistake. They never told me to wait or found a solution for over a month and they waited until the final payment was due to tell me this, even though I warned them repeatedly...

Turns out the KD is mad at my contractors because they insulted his "plumbing knowledge" at some point. Now, I'm being forced to pay for a job the KD screwed up and let me tell you, there are numerous other measurement issues that have occurred as well...like brackets that are too big for a peninsula and a food processor that doesn't fit anywhere, despite the KD measuring it to fit!

So, friends...the moral of this story is....If you have found a contractor who has experience installing a kitchen, don't rule them out just because they aren't bona fide KDs! I did and look where it landed me! (The latest is the KD is now trying to make me pay for 4 wooden counter support brackets that are apparently $100 each -- replacements for others that didn't match the kitchen hardware...presumably the KD's way of winning this round!) How many ways can you spell RI-DON-CULOUS!


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